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Mind Over Poker

A Healthy Level of Insanity

by David Apostolico |  Published: Apr 01, 2010


Frustrated Man
I recently received one of those joke-containing e-mails that get forwarded around the universe. This one was titled “To Maintain a Healthy Level of Insanity,” and it contained a list of 14 things that you can do to achieve such a state. A few items on the list included, “Page yourself over the intercom and don’t disguise your voice,” “Specify that your drive-thru order is to go,” “Sing along at the opera,” and, my personal favorite, “Order a diet water whenever you go out to eat — with a straight face.” The rest of the list included similar random acts that are guaranteed to get a reaction.

Of course, that is the one common thread in each item on the list. The point is to mess with people in order to get a reaction out of them. It’s fun to witness how people react to something offbeat or out of the social norms. When it comes to poker, I was reminded of some of Mike Caro’s teachings, in which he advocates creating a purposeful madman image early in a session in order to get paid off later. My intention is not to reiterate Caro’s point of view, since he presented that much more eloquently than I can.

Instead, I want to address another problem that we all encounter at the poker table, and how a healthy dose of insanity may help alleviate it. As anyone who has logged long sessions knows, poker can be a very tedious game. It requires durability, patience, and discipline. The reason that tourists and recreational players are such good targets is that they are at the table primarily to have fun and blow off steam, rather than grind out a winning session. For the more serious-minded among us, though, poker is a grind.

The reason that e-mail is so funny is that we all can relate to the desire to break up the monotony of everyday life with a random act of insanity. Yet, most of us will never sing out loud at an opera, or even specify at the drive-thru that our order is to go. At the poker table, we can pick some random hands to play off-kilter. While I wouldn’t suggest this on a regular basis, I think there is some merit in blowing off some steam. Maintaining discipline is hard to do when you go card-dead for an extended period of time. In order to avoid the temptation of playing a marginal hand that can get you into a lot of trouble, choose a random hand with which to open-raise. The advantage of doing this is that you have your eyes wide open. You don’t risk getting sucked into a bad situation with that marginal hand. Rather, you are playing for a little fun, and you can easily get away from the hand if need be. You may even win the hand, and if you get to a showdown, you’ll be able to witness your opponents’ surprised reactions.

So, the next time that you find yourself fighting boredom and/or temptation, take matters into your own hands and add a planned dose of insanity. It will prevent you from having a major unplanned blowup later. Spade Suit